Back in the Dark Ages -- well, 1966 -- a mediocre movie, "Fantastic Voyage," depicted a fascinating futuristic idea. The plot engaged espionage and Raquel Welch, but more presciently to modern medical science, a submarine was somehow shrunk to Lilliputian proportions and injected into a patient's body in order to save him.
Microscopic vessels and Ms. Welch notwithstanding, the movie's then inconceivably high-tech concept is the stuff of real medicine today. And Dr. Neil Floch , director of minimally invasive and bariatric surgery at Norwalk Hospital , is among its pioneers.
"Procedures, such as the Esophy-X solution we now use to treat chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), are definitely revolutionizing surgery specifically and medicine in general," says Dr. Floch. GERD is an anatomic defect at the gastroesophageal junction, and the new procedure known as Esophy-X is recommended for patients who have either tried medicines or who face taking them for life. "There is minimal external scarring and discomfort, and patients are able to go home more quickly than ever before."
But if this is a huge medical revolution, it's being conducted on a microscopic scale. Dr. Floch, along with his colleague, gastroenterologist Dr. Seth Gross , work together in a high-tech pas de deux, using a sophisticated, minimally invasive device that allows them to operate on a patient (who is under general anesthesia), employing natural orifice surgery (NOS). In a case of GERD, they can access the abdomen through the patient's mouth by inserting an extremely thin tube. The tube, on which a minuscule camera is mounted, is part scope, part scalpel and part needle and thread. The doctors work in concert in the operating room, where their skills as surgeon and gastroenterologist converge. "Generally, a gastroenterologist uses scopes to look into the stomach, but with this procedure, the surgeon is using what is essentially a scope in order to do surgery. It's the best of both disciplines combined," says Dr. Floch.
Dr. Floch, who lives with his family in Old Greenwich, grew up in Westport and is in practice with his brother, Craig. "I love working with my brother," he says. "We are very close and it's a wonderful privilege to be in a working partnership with a guy who's got such a big heart."
Did he ever think he'd be operating on the cutting edge, as it were, of science? "I'm just happy to offer my patients the best that technology has to offer right now," says Dr. Floch. That in itself is a fantastic voyage.
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